Cruise ship accidents, as unlikely as they might sound, do happen. The recent capsizing of the Costa Concordia near the coast of Italy was a warning sign to all passengers around the world: even if they are on a luxury vacation, they should never forget that the open sea is a dangerous place and they always have to be alert. Of course the above mentioned accident was a maritime tragedy which led to the death of several passengers and the severe injury of many others. Most maritime accidents do not occur on such a scale. But even if one single passenger is injured, for the victim the impact, the sock and the long term consequences will be the same.
In fact most cruise ship accidents are isolated events which affect only one passenger or crew member. According to official statistics the most often reported incidents involve slip and fall injuries, overboard or drowning incidents, food poisoning, worsening medical conditions due to the lack of adequate medical assistance and sexual assault. All these different incidents have a couple of identical causes. The most common ones are: slippery floors, poor illumination, malfunctioning equipment and the lack of safety instructions and equipments, the lack of security personnel and the inadequate medical personnel. As we could see, basically the main cause is human negligence and recklessness. However cruise lines and their ships are under the regulation of maritime laws. That means that vessel owners, operators or captains have the responsibility to provide relatively safe conditions on board both for passengers and crew members. If they fail to do so, they can be held legally responsible.
So injured cruise ship passengers have the legal right to require financial damages for their injuries and losses suffered while on board. But in order to actually benefit from those rights, passengers have to avoid some common mistakes.
The first step that should be taken immediately after the incident is to notify the crew. Some passengers might be tempted not to do so, as they consider themselves responsible for the events. However this is a vital action in the recovery process. Cruise line tickets require their passengers to officially notify them regarding any incidents or injuries, within six months after they occurred. If they fail to do so, they will lose the right to any compensation. Although an official report should be sent once on land, the crew has to be notified as soon as possible.
Another common mistake is to expect the crew to fully assist the injured passenger. In fact, once the injury occurred, the crew is aware that they are facing a potential claim. So they will try to minimize the incident, to convince the passenger not to file charges and to prevent him from doing so. That means the victim will have to gather evidence on his own, to take pictures of the accident scene, of his injuries, to take contact details of potential witnesses and to make sure he receives a copy of the incident report and his medical files.
However all these will have no value if further action is not taken in a timely manner. Another common mistake is to let time pass by without filing the charges. Cruise line contracts require injured passengers to file any injury claims within one year after they occurred. These charges often have to be filed in the city where the company is based, which is usually not the city where the victim lives. Besides that in order to build a case the plaintiff’s lawyer will need time to gather evidence, investigate the circumstances of the accident and interview witnesses. Yet if the statute of limitation has expired, victims will no longer have a valid claim.
Another key element in receiving the full amount of compensation available is to be represented by the right lawyer. All cruise ship incidents are handled according to the maritime law. That means, plaintiffs will have to be represented by an admiralty attorney. If victims live in the countryside, they might not have this type of attorney in their surroundings. However a regular personal injury lawyer will not be able to represent them properly and to win the case against the experienced and determined attorneys of the cruise line. So choosing the right lawyer is imperative.